By David Hunter
Stage 4 Recap
It looked like going the way I predicted when Contador attacked, with Valverde in his wheel. Unfortunately Alejandro was unwilling to do any work(on a few occasions) and Wout Poels got away to claim a brilliant victory.Valverde managed to pinch 2 seconds on Contador, whilst Kwiatkowski finished 7 seconds down on Contador.
Stage 5 Eibar – Markina/Xemein 160.2km
After the fireworks of the Queen stage, there is no rest for the riders.
The riders have to tackle 1 cat 1, 2 cat 2s and 2 cat 3 climbs. 4 of these climbs are in the final 60km of the race.
This stage would have been one marked down by the breakaway specialists, but after the GC leaders failing to distance each other on stage 4, it looks like being another GC battle. The cat 1 climb of Alto de Ixua has to be where the action happens. At 6.6km it’s not the longest climb and with an average of 6.6%, it’s not the steepest either. The last 3.6km of the climb is around the 8% mark and I would expect to see some attacks, at this point. The problem is the distance from the finish, 25km. Contador did attack from distance in Tirreno, but that was on a much longer and more difficult climb. I don’t think he can do as much damage on this one.
The final climb of the day is only a cat 2, but it’s going to be decisive. The opening kilometre is at 8.5% and then the 4th kilometre is at 9.5%. This has to be where the GC riders come out to play. Contador has been the best and most aggressive rider of the race and he will attack. The climb crests with only 8km remaining of the race and with a reduced peloton it will be very difficult to bring back a flying Contador.
Can anyone go with him? Alejandro Valverde has been a close second to Alberto and was able to match him today on 9% sections of the climb. It will take a real effort for Contador to shake off Valverde.
What about the rest? Michal Kwiatkowski is still looking very sharp, but he wasn’t able to respond to the attacks of Contador today. His best chance will be a reduced bunch sprint.
BMC have Van Garderen, Sanchez and Evans all within shouting distance. Evans was good on stage 1 and Sanchez was strong on stage 4. The Spaniard looks like their best option for a stage win. The American will hope to not lose time with the ITT to follow.
Lampre-Merida have 2 options: Cunego and Rui Costa. The Italian has been in fine form recently and attacked today, but it’s the World Champion that I like the look of for the stage. I had this stage down as his from before the race, but because of stage 4 I’m slowly changing my mind. If the GC had bigger gaps, this would have been a small sprint and Costa would have won. Now, I’m not so sure.
Bauke Mollema returned to form in stage 4 and looks good for another strong performance in this stage. He would like a small bunch sprint.
The only other rider worth considering is Tom Slagter. I was surprised to see him finish 4th today, as longer climbs aren’t usually his thing. Stage 5 is easier than stage 4, so he should be present at the end of the stage.
Prediction time … Movistar want something out of this race and they won’t win the TT. I expect them to play a key role in bringing the race together for the cat 1 climb. Valverde will attack, not like stage 4, and try to distance his rivals. He will succeed, apart from Contador. I think that Alberto will drop him on the toughest section of the final climb and solo home for victory in the stage, assuring his GC crown.
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